Do I Need Probate UK? Help With Probate in England & Wales

When is probate required after a death?  

Whether you require probate or not is often up to third parties such as banks, insurance companies etc. One useful thing which may just tip the balance, assuming there is not a prepaid funeral plan, is to ask the bank or savings institution if there is enough money in the deceased’s account to pay for the funeral – or at least a part of it – they may agree provided they pay the funeral director direct.

Many people get it wrong and end up doing twice as much work because they hadn’t read our article. So if you are thinking of doing it yourself, or paying someone else to help, read on. Our Free Guide to Probate is here.   Or Assisted Probate Service (flexible help with probate).

Whose responsibility is it to get probate?

If the person left a valid Will, this should name one or more executors, and it is their responsibility to apply for probate. But they can stand down provided they have not carried out any duty of an executor, or they can appoint a professional to do the work. If there is no  Will, then inheritance rules called the rules of intestacy will determine whose responsibility it is to get probate.  They will be known as an Administrator rather than executor, but it is pretty much the same thing. Normally it would be the surviving legal partner if any, then the children would have equal rights to apply, if none, then the parents, if none then brothers and sisters and then on to more remote relatives, if none then the Bona Vacantia office of the Treasury.  More info.

Do I need probate if there is a Will?

It makes no difference whether or not there is a valid Last Will and Testament, but if there isn’t one, the probate rules and the Rules of Intestacy both apply.

Do I need a Grant of Probate if my husband/wife dies?

We are often asked if probate is required when a husband or wife has died, and the answer is still maybe. There is no specific difference if you are married (except with Inheritance Tax), or have a Will, though legal husbands or wives do have automatic rights to some of the estate if there is not a valid will, but that is another topic entirely (the Rules of Intestacy).

As an example, long ago, when my father died, leaving everything to my mother, there were no issues at all, and everything was transferred to mum, except one modest investment worth just £1,500.  So, if I had to pay a solicitor to get a UK probate grant, it would have cost more than the value of the investment!  When that happens, you have to put the relevant share of all assets on the probate forms, not just the problem item, so always keep a record of the valuations at the date of death just in case something trips you up later, such as shares you were not aware of. Careful attention to record-keeping is a massive help with probate.

Do I need Probate for joint assets?

Many things which are owned in joint names will automatically pass to the survivor, once the institution has seen the death certificate. 

Do you need probate to sell a house / bungalow / flat?

 But where a property is owned as tenants in common, this means that each owner has their specific share of the property, so the property does NOT automatically pass to the surviving owner but instead will pass according to the deceased owner’s Will or the Rules of Intestacy. Such transfers are free of inheritance and capital gains tax for most married couples if they go to each other, but not necessarily for unmarried people. Sadly, lots of people do half the job and leave their half of the house to the children direct, creating needless future capital gains tax bills, and risking the well being of the survivor in the event that half of the property has to be sold to pay for a child divorce settlement.   With a proper job on the Will, this is not an issue.

When is Probate not needed?

Many times there may be no legal requirement for probate, but one of the asset holders, as in the case of my father, refuses to part with the asset without seeing a grant.

need probate
is probate required?

As discussed above assets held as joint tenants (where each part in effect owns all the assets) can pass automatically.  Generally, all that is needed is an original death certificate and a bit of paperwork.  For married couples who are both British or UK domiciled, that may be it, but things are different if not, and a Grant may be needed – perhaps both in the UK and abroad.

Will Banks release money without Probate? Bank and building societies limits.

According to research by the Coop, these are the limits below which some institutions MAY release funds without a grant:

Approximate maximum certain institutions will at least consider paying out without requiring a grant. There is no guarantee that anyone will release a penny without a grant of probate or letters of administration. These limits do change, so if any are out of date, please do let us know.  Remember the comment at the top, as sometimes that will save lots of money by pushing the holding below the maximum amount released without a grant: ask the bank if they would pay the funeral directors’ bill direct out of the deceased persons’ savings.  WARNING: if you pay first, they will NOT refund you, so you will have to wait until the grant of probate is available then the executor can refund the cost.

  • Aviva – £50,000
  • AXA – £10,000
  • Bank of Ireland – £10,000
  • Bank of Scotland – £25,000
  • Barclays – £50,000
  • Birmingham Midshires – £25,000
  • Britannia – £30,000
  • Cheltenham & Gloucester – £25,000
  • Co-op Bank – £30,000
  • First Direct – £20,000
  • Halifax – £50,000
  • HSBC – Decided on a case-by-case basis
  • Lloyds TSB – £50,000
  • M&S Money – £15,000
  • Nationwide

    • Under £5,000 – no grant of probate is required
    • £5,000 – £30,000 – a certified copy of the grant of probate is required, or alternatively the ‘close account’ form will need to be witnessed by a solicitor
    • Over £30,000 – the original grant of probate is required
  • Natwest – £25,000

  • NS&I (National Savings / Premium Bonds) – £5,000 to £15,000 depending on the will and the number of executors (they are particularly sticky!)
  • Post Office – £10,000
  • Royal Bank of Scotland – £25,000
  • Sainsbury’s Bank – £20,000
  • Santander – £50,000
  • Skipton Building Society £15,000
  • Tesco Bank – £25,000
  • Woolwich – £15,000
  • Yorkshire Building Society – £30,000

Do I need probate to sell a house / flat / bungalow etc?

See the note above about Tenants in Common.  If you are joint tenants and therefore the property is transferred to the living survivor, it can be sold immediately.  But more commonly the situation is that the property passes under the Will or Rules of Intestacy, and will need to be sold or transferred to the beneficiary, so some help with probate may be required.  All sorts of complications can arise if anyone else is living in the property! If the property is empty, it is essential to contact the property insurance company and follow their instructions to the letter.  If you don’t, and there is a fire or burglary, the executors may well be liable to cover the losses personally!  There are more issues over property, but this is just to answer the question about whether probate is required. Fast sale process. For empty property insurance go here.

Do I need probate to sell or transfer shares after a death?

In rare cases, shares may be in joint names, and a death certificate may be enough, but usually, you will need to show the share registrar a grant of probate first.   You should however advise them of the death as soon as possible, and there may be tax implications for the executors to deal with.

We’re happy to have a chat, but we can only give general guidance, not a definitive confirmation – but often it is obvious to us! 03 300 102 300. It’s often a complex question with sometimes an unexpected answer. We are here to help with probate, though we can only give general guidance, not legal advice. You can email us a question if you prefer: that said, there is lots of general probate help on this site.  We are aiming to save you money!

MORE UNDERNEATH

Generally speaking, anyone leaving assets worth less than £5,000 is unlikely to require a grant. But remember that gifts (or loans not repaid) made in the previous 7 years – and sometimes 14 years – are taken into account. If it is a gift in which you retain a benefit (GROBs in the trade) it will probably fully remain in your estate.  A typical example is a property you used to own but still live in despite “giving it away” – if you have paid full market rent, it may not be counted, but be very careful – help will be needed! 

Failing to apply for probate where Inheritance Tax might have been due could result in serious and personal financial penalties. So be wary! Seek help with probate if you are in doubt, preferably through us of course!

If probate is required, the person dealing with it will always require the date of death value of everything. So that will include (for example) any interest earned up until that date, so always ask for that in writing, and retain it just in case something forces you to apply for probate later on – I have known it to crop up 30 years later. So a thorough check now is best and avoids penalties if anything significant is found.

Do I need Probate
HELP AVAILABLE!

If the asset holders (banks etc) won’t agree to a simple transfer,  then you need to obtain a grant of probate – and that means you need it for EVERYTHING, not just the “awkward” asset. If you need a bit of help with probate, then ask us about the flexible Assisted Probate Service

Do I need Probate UK?

Some assets always require probate – a property in a single name, or as tenants in common where individuals own shares of the home for example. Property or assets held as “joint tenants” generally pass semi-automatically to the surviving joint owner. But:

Fraud is often committed when “joint” accounts are claimed by the survivor when they actually had no right to the asset. This is a touchy area – if something is genuinely jointly owned, fine (but see above) but where the money effectively belongs solely to one person – have a care! Perhaps you need a little help with Probate? Or a lot – your choice!

Other common assets where a grant of probate is generally required and some probate help may be beneficial:

  • Shares
  • Life insurance policies not written in trust.
  • Some pension benefits.
  • Business assets
  • Agricultural assets.

Is it possible to avoid probate?

With a bit of advance planning, you can minimise the requirement for UK probate –

  • for example, lifetime trusts are outside the scope, though they may well be part of the estate for Inheritance Tax purposes.
  • property owned as joint tenants (as opposed to tenants in common which is shares) passes automatically to the survivor.
  • Savings, investments, life insurance in trust can normally pass to the designated beneficiaries outside the estate – though it could be part of the estate for Inheritance Tax purposes.
  • Sometimes a Deed of Variation could be used to appoint benefits back to an exempt person, typically the spouse, but not a partner who was not married / civil registered to the deceased.

do i need probate uk?
Is probate needed?

Trusts are another issue – they don’t necessarily of themselves require probate, but they may well mean that an IHT400 form needs to be completed. Trusts in the Will mean you would be wise to take legal advice – which is where we come in – we can introduce you to a firm with suitable expertise at relatively reasonable fees.

Do I need probate UK is often not a simple question! – Grant of Probate

Probate Forms HERE.    Help with probate Help HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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